Monday, October 29, 2018

My Fate Dice and Fate Points from the Kickstarter came in, and they are really nice. These are adding to a little collection I have that includes a Noteboard, decks of Short Order Heroes, various Fate Dice from other Kickstarters, a variety of Exceed notebooks from Wal Mart, and a couple different sizes of these small stackable boxes for holding cards and stuff (also from Wal Mart). I want to add an All Rolled Up at some point to round it all out.

Unfortunately, I don't have a game to use them in and when I do get one running it will be 1) Blades in the Dark and 2) online. But when I do play face-to-face, I'm gonna be prepared!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

So I restarted playing Thief for about the dozenth time, with the intent of finally pushing past the horrible beginning to find out if it was as bad as the reviews. I'm now solidly into the territory I enjoy - exploration, jobs, puzzles and (of course) stealing things. It's definitely not as good as the original Thief games - but it might be on par with Thief Deadly Shadows, which was the weakest of the original three for me but still enjoyable.

The Good
  • Visually the game is amazing 
  • Lockpicking and the general cracking/puzzle solving are my favorite out of all of the Thief games. I really like the mechanic to check for hidden switches. In fact, I can say that I like most of the mechanics. 
The OK
It makes me feel like this
  • I remember a lot of reviews complaining about changes to the controls - basically, it takes a lot of the pixelbitching out of climbing, mantling, etc. When you are able to do the thing (such as jumping over or off of something, crouching behind something, climbing) you press E when you're in the right place and you do the thing. I got used to it pretty easy, although I still occasionally attach myself and wind up peeking around a corner or box when I really wanted to sail right by. 

  • Related to this, there's not quite as much freedom of movement. In the previous Thief games, you could only fire rope arrows into specific materials (i.e., wood), but you could totally fire a rope arrow and climb up only to have nowhere to go. In the reboot, you can only fire them on to specific overhands and whatnot. This is slightly made up for by the fact that if you can fire a rope arrow at it, there is something to get to from there. Similarly, there are things that can broken with blunt arrows like winches, handles, etc. If that's the case, again there's going to be something there. 
  • The levels are pretty straightforward without a lot of alternate paths to get around obstacles, but to be honest I think I've also been spoiled by Dishonored where if you can reach it you can teleport to it (like Thief, there's no guarantee you can go anywhere from that spot, but I have found some novel paths to get places in Dishonored). The levels are definitely smaller than many of the levels in the original Thief games. 
  • I've never been a fan of only being able to save at checkpoints. Having to randomly hide in cabinets to get said save is kind of funny, especially since one of the commands in the cabinet is something like "barge out". Since this reminds me of my four year old liking to hide in cabinets and closets, I always imagine Garrett is going to jump out and yell, "Surprise!" or "You found me!". 
  • I have my difficulty settings cranked up a little bit, mostly because Thief-ing is old hat to me and otherwise it would be super easy to breeze past guards and whatnot. With it set so I can only knock out hostiles, and not kill anybody (directly - I quickly found breaking a pulley and dropping stuff on people doesn't count), I occasionally find that the line between hostile and civilian is fuzzy, For example, there is this guy in the foundry mission who obviously works for the "Thief-Taker General" (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) and is in a uniform. Nope, can't knock his ass out. I guess the litmus test is if they run or don't react to you, can't knock them out. 
  • I'll preface this with the fact that I haven't been trying really hard to find every piece of loot, but it seems that without using Focus it's super easy to miss loot and collectibles. Overall, it hasn't yet impacted my game other than seeing all of the crap I missed at the end of a mission - but I suppose at some point only getting a fraction of the coin will eat into my ability to buy equipment. But beyond that, and maybe it's just because I'm early in the game, but the expenditure of Focus Points doesn't seem to add much to the game - especially compared to a game like Dishonored, where your abilities have a range of usefulness. I guess I just need to buckle down and start using Focus everywhere. 
  • Speaking of gear, while I like the expanded equipment I'm not totally sold on having to go specific dudes to buy it, especially if that means having to listen to their dialogue. I much preferred the earlier system where you had to choose your load out before the mission. 
I'm talking about this guy. Also, he looks like he wants to flash me. 
The Bad
  • Pretty much every character in the game. Seriously. The dialogue is cringeworthy at best, the voice acting ranges from wooden to jarring to "Did this guy wander away from a Barnum and Bailey's?" 

  • The plot, at least so far, especially combined with the really horrible dialogue and voice acting. Also, while I understand that there were likely some independent, parallel things going on with Thief's development vs Dishonored...there are things that strike me as a little too similar. Garrett returning to a city stricken by a plague, the beggar-queen character, etc. I haven't gotten too far into it to know if it continues to be not very compelling - but the beginning with Erin and then being taken back into the city on a beggar's death cart without much explanation fell flat enough that it kept me from engaging with the story and just not getting any further a whole bunch of times. When I restarted it this time I saw I had about 10 1/2 hours of play, and realized it was likely the same 45 minutes to an hour repeated about ten times - and even then bits were forgettable enough that it was like I was playing them all over again. 
  • The hands. Oh God the hands. It looks like Garrett just got out of bed and is trying to find the bathroom with the lights off. 
With all of that said, this time I think I'll finish it just to cross it off the list and move on to some other games in my library. I likely won't go back and replay it though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Current Stuff and Things

Aside from starting to get a Roll20 Blades in the Dark game together, I have a handful of other things I've been pecking away at for the past year (or more in some cases). I don't really have a priority on these things, as I kind of flit between them in slower moments at work or home, or when inspiration strikes me. I also don't know what my ultimate intentions are with any of these - publication (for sale or for free) or just for my own amusement. All three of them have gotten to a point where I need to do some kind of outlining or organization on them to continue any further, otherwise I just wind up spinning my tires going back over what I've already done.

"Cradle" - This one is a semi-traditional fantasy setting that I've been kicking around for years and years. Earlier this year I finally got a map that I'm very happy with and the name of the setting, and I made a huge amount of progress fleshing out the high level details. At the moment, it lives on World Anvil as kind of a POC to see how having the structured categories helps me out creatively. It may not stay there.

The tone of the setting is intended to be exploration and colonization, with the tables turned on the colonizers. I've tried to steer clear of Western fantasy tropes as much as possible, down to using Vulgar to generate all of the languages and names so I don't fall back on stereotyped sounding names. "Humans" are the only species, although there are groups with a variety of features - the indigenous people of the northern plateau are meant to be similar to Neanderthals, and there's a group that has characteristics that are going to tie back to the newly colonized megacontinent.

I hesitate to use the word "steampunk" (or any kind of "punk") to describe it, but the technology level is pseudo-mid-1800s with a strong magitech streak. So, yeah, there are trains and airships of some form or another as well as firearms. There's also the aforementioned plateau-dwellers, some of whom are nomadic and ride giant flightless birds, and others who have developed advanced techniques for unpowered flight; the forest dwellers who have something to do with the Big Mystery in the setting and are allies with giant semi-sapient ape-bear things; and an ancient culture that pioneered magitech and have twin cities devoted to extracting magical ore in the middle of a desert - and the desert is expanding because of it. Also megafauna - because I like megafauna. I've recently been thinking about how magic works, mainly with regard to its source being an element that can be mined, refined, etc. I've always really liked magic with physicality - runes, sigils, wards, drawing glowy things with fingers in the air - and having it tie in with the energy coming from a physical source would give it a very physical (and potentially visceral) feel.

I guess the whole thing might wind up looking like a Wild West meets the Pleistocene meets fairy tales meets big glowy spells. More than anything right now it just needs some focus and organization, since I'm not sure what I want the PCs to actually _do_. The system is pretty much guaranteed to be Fate-based.

In Aztec mythology, Tzitzimime were demons-gods that lived in the darkness of the sky vault. These deities were commonly depicted as skeletal female figures we

"Aztecocalypse" - This started out as pondering an alternate setting for Tribe 8 based in Southern California, and quickly veered off into its own thing with very similar themes. Basically, some Mesoamerican supernatural shenanigans result in the world getting fucked up real bad. A few generations later, survivors are trying to eke out existences in the shadow of of major cities that have been turned into necropolises. Oh, and the truly horrific stuff only happens at night. Unlike Tribe 8, there's no "Fatimas" to liberate people but there is going to be an element of other supernaturals trying to restore order to the cosmos as well as people popping up with supernatural abilities.  I have the basic groups and their interactions fleshed out, including Disneyland as a kind of hub and safe space for some survivors, and the descendents of Marines from Camp Pendleton as a Spartan-like society. Like the fantasy setting I'm still looking for some kind of hook or overarcing purpose to what the PCs are going to do, as well as getting the supernatural elements hammered out which is going to be heavily based in Mesoamerican (and other southwestern Native American) beliefs. I have no system really attached to this, although either Forged in the Dark or Fate are likely contenders.

"Retrolock" - Like so many of my things, this started out as something entirely different. Namely, an Interlock retroclone. It's roots are in a kind of Interlock/Silhouette/Dream Park rpg mix up that I did in the early to mid-90s. A couple things happened with it being a straight up retroclone, namely the resurgence of CP2020 in conjunction with the hype around Cyberpunk 2077 combined with divergence from the base system. Now it's kind of a hodge-podge of the original house system (stats and skills rearranged in ways that "make more sense to me", a multi-die system without resorting to fistfuls of dice), combined with newer concepts culled from games like Fate and Blades in the Dark (some kind of aspect-like element, conditions for injuries, achievements, downtime). It has no setting attached to it, and may not actually have anything really innovative or otherwise flashy, but at some point I'd love to get enough of it together to get it into some kind of playtesting stage just to say I did it.

As of now, it's just a matter of getting the internal hamster-wheel spinning faster on one of them over the others, and then dedicating time to organize and start making more progress.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blades in The Dark Planning and Resources

So I've buckled down and decided that I am, 100%, going to be starting a Blades in the Dark game in the Very Near Future(tm). Starting to run a game like BitD less than two years after it was released is a decent accomplishment for me. It took me at least three years to get into Exalted and possibly a year or two more before I tried my hand at running it. My track record with video games is even spottier and really looks a lot like this:

Image result for xkcd comic waiting years to play video games
I just now started playing Thief, and that was released in 2014. I hope to get to Dishonored II by 2020.

I've started to watch various Actual Plays as well as other videos on running the game while I try to get things a little organized. To my surprise, I found that it was easy to find YouTube videos of actual play and tutorials but it took some digging to find other resources. So as much for anybody else looking to see what cool stuff is out there as myself, I'm collecting all of these tidbits up here: - People generator - More people - Street and building generator - Ghost/demon/cult generator - List of names - Crew mission tables - Score Generator - Doskvol News - Doskvol Scores - Devil's Bargains - Score Workflow